Tao and Wu Wei

Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The word “Tao” (道) has a variety of meanings in both ancient and modern Chinese language. Aside from its purely prosaic use to mean road, channel, path, principle, or similar, the word has acquired a variety of differing and often confusing metaphorical, philosophical and religious uses. In most belief systems, the word is used symbolically in its sense of ‘way’ as the ‘right’ or ‘proper’ way of existence, or in the context of ongoing practices of attainment or of the full coming into being, or the state of enlightenment or spiritual perfection that is the outcome of such practices.

Some scholars make sharp distinctions between moral or ethical usage of the word “Tao” that is prominent in Confucianism and religious Taoism and the more metaphysical usage of the term used in philosophical Taoism and most forms of Mahayana Buddhism; others maintain that these are not separate usages or meanings, seeing them as mutually inclusive and compatible approaches to defining the principle. The original use of the term was as a form of praxis rather than theory – a term used as a convention to refer to something that otherwise cannot be discussed in words – and early writings such as the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching make pains to distinguish between conceptions of the Tao (sometimes referred to as “named Tao”) and the Tao itself (the “unnamed Tao”), which cannot be expressed or understood in language. Liu Da asserts that the Tao is properly understood as an experiential and evolving concept, and that there are not only cultural and religious differences in the interpretation of the Tao, but personal differences that reflect the character of individual practitioners.

The Tao can be roughly thought of as the flow of the Universe, or as some essence or pattern behind the natural world that keeps the Universe balanced and ordered. It is related to the idea of qi, the essential energy of action and existence. The Tao is a non-dualistic principle – it is the greater whole from which all the individual elements of the Universe derive. Keller considers it similar to the negative theology of Western scholars, but the Tao is rarely an object of direct worship, being treated more like the Hindu concepts of karma or dharma than as a divine object. The Tao is more commonly expressed in the relationship between wu (void or emptiness, in the sense of wuji) and yinyang (the natural dynamic balance between opposites), leading to its central principle of wu wei (inaction, or inexertion).

The Tao is usually described in terms of elements of nature, and in particular as similar to water. Like water it is undifferentiated, endlessly self-replenishing, soft and quiet but immensely powerful, and impassively generous. Much of Taoist philosophy centers on the cyclical continuity of the natural world, and its contrast to the linear, goal-oriented actions of human beings.

In all its uses, the Tao is considered to have ineffable qualities that prevent it from being defined or expressed in words. It can, however, be known or experienced, and its principles (which can be discerned by observing Nature) can be followed or practiced. Much of East Asian philosophical writing focuses on the value of adhering to the principles of the Tao and the various consequences of failing to do so.

The Tao was shared with Confucianism, Chán and Zen Buddhism and more broadly throughout East Asian philosophy and religion in general. In Taoism, Chinese Buddhism and Confucianism, the object of spiritual practice is to ‘become one with the Tao’ (Tao Te Ching) or to harmonise one’s will with Nature (cf. Stoicism) in order to achieve ‘effortless action’ (Wu wei). This involves meditative and moral practices. Important in this respect is the Taoist concept of De (德; virtue). In Confucianism and religious forms of Taoism, these are often explicitly moral/ethical arguments about proper behavior, while Buddhism and more philosophical forms of Taoism usually refer to the natural and mercurial outcomes of action (comparable to karma). The Tao is intrinsically related to the concepts yin and yang (pinyin: yīnyáng), where every action creates counter-actions as unavoidable movements within manifestations of the Tao, and proper practice variously involves accepting, conforming to, or working with these natural developments.

Expediency versus Karma

Over the last few days or so I have been touching upon choice, decision and truth. People choose their truths and decide how to act apparently upon that basis. They will choose to act in contravention to something which they pertain to believe in, if it is expedient so to do. Immediacy and perceived social immediacy, often dominate in decision making or reactive gratificatory behaviours.

In effect people often take a gamble or place a bet that Karma does not exist, nor will they be judged at the “Pearly Gates” for their actions or their inactions.

They are betting that they can, “get away with it”.

Using the example above, plagiarism seems tempting for short term success. Yet what does this do to the confidence and self worth of those so tempted, in the long run? Sooner or later that which they claim as “theirs”, vanishes. They have but loaned it and often sneakily so, so as to look better than they are, or for pecuniary gain.

If expediency goes wrong there is always the possibility of redemption; an option not known for its popularity. So the bet usually stands until the croupier calls time.

Does expediency always win?

Do I believe in Karma?

What happens when the wheel stops spinning?

Karma and Omnipotence

This is from a previous blog called Karmic Destination

The only constant in the universe is the inevitability of change. That change can take time. History teaches that all empires, even those which consider themselves omnipotent, eventually fall into decadence and complacency. It is not the enemy without which causes the fall, it is the wayward nature of human self interest and greed. This dynamic is played out for global empires whether military or commercial, local organizations or tribes and in domestic relationships. The lure of power and the competition for it, becomes a trap.

People paint omnipotence upon their houses and just like the World Trade Centre of old, that house will eventually come crashing down. History is littered with fallen empire. The lining of pockets and the hedonism of luxury, eat away at the fabric. People, feeling omnipotent rarely see it coming.

Even if they do, they simply pour another gin and tonic, light a cigar and shag themselves silly in the hope it will go away.

The Karma of imagined omnipotence is to have power taken away.

This may be sudden or slow and painful. The scale is global as well as much more local. Success inflates EGO and this bubble, must eventually burst. The hype, the world domination of Brazilian football, has just been grounded, and with a bang. The manager has been sacrificed on the altar. Yet it was not his EGO which brought about the downfall, it was the complacency of shared omnipotence.

The swelling of omnipotence can be found in the heads of many. It creates the illusion of invulnerability. Striving to dominate the world, the market, the minds of others, leads ultimately to downfall. One might succeed for a while but the medicine of reality is not easy to swallow.

The cure for omnipotence is humility; a draft not favoured by many.

Sooner or later, the universe responds to the human arrogance of omnipotence. Perhaps the most temporally powerful individual or our times, Adolf Hitler, learned this with the taste of almonds on his tongue. This individual who strove for omnipotence was fearful and rightfully paranoid. For all the tea in China I would not have his fate.

The lust for power and power over is a part of human learning. It needs to be transcended. There is nothing quite like power for breeding fear in the individual who possesses it. In spinning plates to borrow power over others, the individual colours their life. Power taken and not earned, exacts a terrible price. One can only spin plates for so long before the shit hits the fan. This is always messy!

Those omnipotent beings rarely see the shit coming and can be quite upset when it does come. They then sulk that it is not fair. The amount of mess that comes is in proportion to the lust for power. Few who create the mess, stick around to clear up after them. Not much is heard of omnipotent beings after their fall. They may still flex their muscles from time to time, yet they are weak and many laugh at them.

There are few things that humans cling to more than power.

This is the truth awaiting those who lust for power and in particular, power over. As their skills start to wane, they cling ever more desperately. This is true globally, nationally and in intimate relationships.

Am I invulnerable, even omnipotent? If my power, my position, were taken from me, what would I have left?

Spiritual Journeys

This title is not entirely satisfactory because the word “spiritual” has been misappropriated and applied to things which are not to my eyes very spiritual. I have met people who claim to be “spiritual” {man} but who are in fact largely selfish and highly materialistic.

It is a question of degree.

During any life one has challenges, these may be as simple as getting a promotion at work, health problems, relationship problems, problems with sanity. If one is ambitious one might seek to climb the ladder or greasy pole. These might be called mundane challenges.

In my opinion and I stress it is only that, opinion, truly spiritual journeys are beset with challenges that are beyond the ability of most to face. One is obliged to face them and with as good an attitude as possible. Some of these challenges are of a life-or-death nature. Some threaten one’s sanity. Most people when challenged to choose between a spiritually “correct” choice or material comfort, will opt for material comfort even though they kind of know they are bottling. People will choose safety and social acceptance as is exemplified by the bible story of Peter’s denial.

The good news is that one is never given a challenge that one is not capable of meeting. That meeting could be a very stretching experience. Challenge can sometime be very inconvenient indeed. To my eyes that is a marker of a worthwhile challenge, the higher the degree of inconvenience the better the “spiritual” reward. Some challenges last decades.

People who have a life that is beset with high magnitude challenges are being offered a major opportunity for spiritual evolution. This is a chance to make a large leap towards ultimate liberation. It is best to seize that opportunity gratefully with both hands. One is given the chance to work off a vast karmic debt and in doing so reduce the burden.

Trying to avoid a challenge, to shirk it, doesn’t mean that one succeeds. It means that the challenge returns either in the same life or subsequent lives greatly amplified in magnitude.

It is tempting to pity someone who has a serious malady and think but for the grace of God, there go I. Pity is not a helpful thing. The being who is so challenged is offered a chance of a tremendous leap forward. The indwelling being needs to learn and evolve and this means it gets to use a number of different vehicles. A malfunctioning vehicle is a good teacher.

One has to drain the cup of Karma willingly on a spiritual journey, whatever it may hold.

Am I Simply an Inappropriate Being?

This poses a very simple question, exactly who gets to decide, decree, define and enforce what is and is not appropriate?

Is it the mythical THEY?

Do they get to issue an omniscient decree?

This notion of being appropriate is easily “defined” in terms of function. A chocolate teapot is not appropriate for making tea, neither is an ashtray on a motorbike of much use.

The word used in a social context is all about social conditioning and social norming. The notion of appropriate is time varying.  The Sex Pistols were deemed inappropriate by some, but they sure made life a whole lot more interesting. They would have pulled down statues just for fun and not because the geezer in the statue had a slave once a couple of hundred years ago.

Apparently it is appropriate to send dick pics and post pictures of oneself in a painful looking micro bikini online. But it is not appropriate to have had a colonial history, that must be wiped from the historical record. What exactly are we celebrating with this bizarre modern imagery?

Is it appropriate for someone with over sixty papers in the physical sciences literature to be discussing shamanism and meditation? Is that just too darned inappropriate for the taste and liking of the we look down the nose brigade?

“We don’t do that sort of thing old chap. It is just not cricket.”

Many people have their own notions as to what is and is not appropriate and then they try to ENFORCE it on others. They try to condition them into some kind of herd or shoal mentality. If you err you get nudged back or excommunicated.

This leads to the question, is the notion or inappropriate a permanent or impermanent thing, ergo does the notion have any reality whatsoever? Is it simply an illusion which exists only in the minds of men and women and every other being across the entire gender spectrum?

Are people simply arguing about made up shit?